Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, what the 49ers have done right since the beginning of the season.
While the 49ers have managed just two wins this season, there have been a few things that have gone right. Matt Breida’s emergence as a lead back is one of them.
The undrafted second-year pro has shown his toughness. He's battled through an ankle injury though several weeks while still being productive. He also has solidified a future on the offense.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he had anticipated both Brenda and Jerick McKinnon as a tandem since before the offseason, and that will remain the plan for 2019.
“I envisioned it this year,” Shanahan said. “So that won't change next year.”
Breida has run for 632 yards on 113 carries, giving him 5.6 yards per carry thus far. While his 8.4 yards per carry led the league through Week 2, he currently is ranked ninth.
[MAIOCCO: Breida's road to starting RB]
The 23-year-old was not known as much of a receiver at Georgia Southern, where he caught 11 passes for 156 yards in three seasons. Since becoming a Niner, he has worked on his receiving ability, and Shanahan has found interesting and productive ways to utilize him.
Breida has 15 receptions for 124 yards through Week 10 and 36 catches for 304 yards as a 49er. Shanahan spoke about how Breida has worked to become more of a receiving back.
“He's worked on it a lot,” Shanahan said. “Breida's worked on everything. Breida, I just told our team the other day, and we have lots of guys that work hard, I think all of our guys work hard. But, in terms of taking it to a whole 'nother level, Breida and [George] Kittle showed that the first day of OTAs.”
It’s really no surprise that both Breida and Kittle have excelled this season with their “extra credit” work.
“They were just pretty obsessive in everything they were doing,” Shanahan said. “Every little detail of their game, and it's improved in a lot of areas. And Breida in the pass game, he wasn't our No. 1 target last year. And with Jet [McKinnon] going down this year, it's given Breida more opportunities. He worked a lot in this offseason so he could be ready for those opportunities.”